Monday, November 7, 2016

Polarized Scattering and Biosignatures in Exoplanetary Atmospheres




Polarized scattering in planetary atmospheres is computed in the context of exoplanets. The problem of polarized radiative transfer is solved for a general case of absorption and scattering, while Rayleigh and Mie polarized scattering are considered as most relevant examples. We show that (1) relative contributions of single and multiple scattering depend on the stellar irradiation and opacities in the planetary atmosphere; (2) cloud (particle) physical parameters can be deduced from the wavelength-dependent measurements of the continuum polarization and from a differential analysis of molecular band absorption; (3) polarized scattering in molecular bands increases the reliability of their detections in exoplanets; (4) photosynthetic life can be detected on other planets in visible polarized spectra with high sensitivity. These examples demonstrate the power of spectropolarimetry for exoplanetary research and for searching for life in the universe.

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